Antidepressant medications are one of the mostly commonly prescribed medications, but for some people they are not effective, or only help in a limited way. A recent study suggests that taking fish oil (omega-3) supplements along with antidepressants can make them work better.
The researchers, from the University of Melbourne (Australia), and Harvard Medical School, published their results in the 26 April The American Journal of Psychiatry. They systematically analyzed 40 previous research studies that studied taking various supplements along with antidepressant pills. Besides omega-3 fatty acids, the researchers looked at various supplements, including Vitamins C and D, folic acid, zinc, and others.
They found that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements gave the most significant boost to the efficacy of antidepressants. Lesser improvements were seen with Vitamin D, methylfolate, and another supplement called S-adenosine methionine (SAMe).
The researchers said that it made sense that omega-3s would help brain function, as omega-3s can improve the functioning of mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin. They believe that omega-3s may also work by decreasing the level of inflammation in the brain, which is thought to contribute to depression.
This study may explain why countries with high fish consumption have a lower incidence of depression. Some mental health experts have theorized that one reason for the increasing rates of depression in developed countries is that people are consuming less omega-3s as part of the trend to decrease fat intake. Many people have cut back on red meat and eggs—both of which have good quantities of omega-3s—but many have not increased their fish intake to compensate for the loss of omega-3s from other sources.
As we have discussed here before, fish oil supplements are one of the best possible supplements to take. Of course you can increase your omega-3 intake by eating fatty fish—such as salmon, sardines, or canned white tuna— two or three times per week. But unless you know the source of the fish, there is significant concern about mercury, heavy metal, and pesticide contamination.
Fish oil dose
Especially fish that is imported from Asia can come from unhealthy, toxic water sources, and often the origin of fish is hidden from the consumer on the packaging. Fish oil supplements are probably a cleaner and safer source of omega-3 fatty acids, and a dose of 1 to 2 grams per day is thought to be ideal. Side effects at this dose are rare.
If you are taking antidepressants, ask your doctor about adding daily fish oil. Don’t expect results right away; it may take several months of daily use to see an effect. And even if you are not taking antidepressants, consider fish oil supplements as a way of improving your brain functioning. Other research has shown that omega-3s may boost the mood of people who don’t even have depression.
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